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Good evening State of Hockey legion, and welcome to a special edition of live in-game commentary presented by Sun Country Airlines. Why is tonight so special? Well, I'm glad I asked. It's because this is the first-ever live in-game commentary on Wild.com ever written in the province of Manitoba. It really is a monumental day in in-game commentary history, considering we've already rocked it in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. Welcome to the club, Manitoba. You're in elite company, and if you're smart, you'll print off this commentary and put it in a frame. It might be worth something in the distant future.
I am coming to you live from the MTS Centre press box, and let me tell you that we're a half hour shy of faceoff between your Minnesota Wild and the Winnipeg Jets and this place is already rocking. It's not that the crowd has really filled in, but they're pumping music in here that is shaking the catwalks. Not to worry, this place is going to be plenty loud in a short while once the pregame introductions start. We'll have a packed building that will be going crazy for the home team.
Things are pretty rosy here in Winnipeg since they got an NHL team back, but I've got bad news for the hosers (Canadian term of endearment) up here in Manitoba. Niklas Backstrom
is going to be starting in goal for the Wild, and that means the only screaming you'll be doing after puck drop will be frustration shouts. The people of Winnipeg will come to learn that Backstrom doesn't hold any ill will toward Manitobans, just Albertans. He's just doing what he's paid to do, and that's turning away opponent shots with ease. Tonight, the Jets are opponents and they must pay the price for that.
It's time now to offer a special welcome back to Guillaume Latendresse
, who will jump back into the lineup after missing the last 15 games with a concussion. G-Lat will be "eased" into the lineup and by eased I'm assuming he goes for two goals and an assist. Sure, it's not a Crosby return, but it will suffice until he's back into game shape. As for the rest of the lineup, you can scratch Marek Zidlicky (concussion), Justin Falk
(upper body), Devin Setoguchi
(lower body), Matt Cullen
(illness) and Josh Harding
(upper body). Nate Prosser
is going to be the healthy scratch tonight.
As for attire, the Wild will wear the road whites for the fifth straight game. Fortunately, there was a stopover in the Twin Cities since the last game so Winnipeg native Tony DaCosta could throw a vat of Tide on those jerseys to get them sparkling again. The Jets are wearing their home navies trimmed in sky blue and white with the airplane on the chest.
Now we have ourselves an atmosphere, not a seat is empty for a chilling rendition of "Oh Canada" which was highlighted by the fans shouting "True North." This is going to be fun.Period 1
19:31 - Dany Heatley
is booed the first time he touches the puck. Not sure if that's a carryover from an Atlanta Thrasher tradition or not. That begs the question: were there any traditions in Atlanta other than skipping the hockey match?
17:32 - The first scoring chance of the game goes to a Minnesota boy. Former Minnesota Golden Gopher Blake Wheeler puts a tip on a shot from the point that Backstrom appears to get a piece of and the puck spins wide.
16:45 - Nice to see Latendresse go hard after a puck in the Winnipeg corner and he plants a hit on Johnny Oduya, putting him on the ice and coming away with the puck.
13:47 - Casey Wellman fires the first shot on goal for the Wild. Ondrej Pavelec makes that stop, but gives up a rebound that Cody Almond
puts right back on goal. Again, Pavelec makes the save, but the Wild enjoys some sustained pressure for the first time tonight.
12:33 - A crazy sequence here as a long shot through traffic hits Backstrom high. Backstrom twice pops the puck up in the air with the waffle mitt before falling on his rump. The Jets hammer away at the loose puck but Backy is able to make one more stop on the ice and then recover.
8:56 - Oopsie. An errant Greg Zanon pass ends up on the stick of Evander Kane in the slot. The Jets leading scorer rifles a shot high on the glove side that hits the post so hard it flies out of play.
6:51 - Oof. A Clayton Stoner
wrist shot is kicked out by the toe of Pavelec, but it's right on the stick of Pierre-Marc Bouchard
in front of the net. Butch goes to the backhand but he can't quite lift it over the outstretched pad of Pavelec. The fans here are loving that save, and rightfully so. It's a beauty.
4:01 - Andrew Lass gets loose in the slot on a nice pass from Kyle Wellwood. Backstrom goes down into the butterfly to make that stop and then he covers up for the faceoff.
3:37 - Quick question: Who was the third overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft? None other than Zach Bogosian, who rings another shot off the post here.
2:26 - We've got our first "Go Jets Go!" chant of the night. And on the plus side, it's not being led by some creepy guy named Ed in a green and white fireman's helmet.
1:36 - Now we've got out first "Ohhh....OHHHHHH!" scream of the night. Wellwood puts a shot from the hash mark off the shoulder of Backstrom. The puck drops right in front for Ladd on backhand, but Backstrom lunges to his left and makes a spectaculer save. Goaltending has been the story thus far in the first.
0:00 - This building has not disappointed. A great atmosphere in the first period is stopped by the first intermission.Period 2
18:38 - A shot along the ice from the point by former UMass-Lowell Riverhawk Ron Hainsey is deflected halfway to the net. Backstrom calmly sticks is glove up and snaps that one out of the air.
16:08 - Coming off a three-goal night in Phoenix, the Wild power play is getting to work. Bouchard sets up Heatley with a nice pass to the hash marks, but the Heater's one-timer is stopped by Pavelec.
15:49 - Here we go. The Wild will have a two man advantage for 39 seconds after former Dartmouth Big Green Tanner Glass takes a tripping penalty.15:21 - MIN 1 - WPG 0 - Welcome back G-Lat! Latendresse breaks the scoreless tie on the 5-on-3 by putting away the garbage. Koivu one-times a blast that gets under a sprawling Pavelec. The puck lays in the crease and Gui makes his return a memorable one by poking it home.
15:01 - The Jets come right back with a furious charge. Bryan Little gets in on a partial breakaway and makes a great move to get Backstrom to go left while Little goes right. He has all kinds of space to put one in and slides one right through the crease.
14:20 - The Jets keep coming. Backstrom tries to clear the puck but former Michigan State Spartan Jim Slater bats it out of the air and again misses by inches.11:23 - MIN 1 - WPG 1 - This crowd is beside itself. After being unbelievably denied on three glorious scoring chances, the Jets finally crack Backstrom. Bogosian rips a slap shot from the point through a maze of bodies and beats teh Wild netminder up high. The fans have been waiting for this, and you had to think it was coming the way the Jets have been coming in wave after wave.
9:41 - Holy action! The intensity in here was already ridiculous and it's now been ratcheted up to 11. After Glass delivers a hit on Zanon in the corner, Clayton Stoner
wants to go. He offers a couple slashes to Glass and the gloves are off. This one is a good one with Stoner landing some big time blows. Glass lands a few, but as this one wears on, both combatants are gassed and they agree to end it. This was no staged fight. This was a product of an electric atmosphere in a hard fought game.
8:46 - Back the other way we go. Bouchard gets behind the Jets defense and moves in on Pavelec. He goes to the far side to try and tuck a backhand between the five hole but Pavelec stays with him and makes a rare deck pad save. Old school baby.
6:53 - A great shift by Latendresse here and he looks like he's in great shape. He has three shots at a goal in the span of about 10 seconds. He is getting to the scoring areas and causing all varieties of trouble for Pavelec.
4:49 - This Kane character? Not too bad a hockey player. He makes a sick move to get around Marco Scandella
and in on Backstrom who again comes up huge. The big board says Backstrom has 17 shots, which seems ridiculous unless they are only counting jaw-dropping saves.
4:17 - There could not be any more scoring chances in this period. Every trip down the ice is a scoring chance for one team. This time, it's the Wild as Kyle Brodziak
makes a great effort behind the net. Despite being knocked to the ice he's able to throw a pass to the front for Nick Johnson
whose point blank attempt is stoned by the pad of Pavelec.
2:46 - Great call ref. Great call. The Jets appear to take the lead as Dustin Byfuglien pounces on a loose puck in the slot and rips it home. But the zebras immediately wave this one off as Wellwood collided with Backstrom before Big Buff fired the shot. That's goaltender interference. Good gravy, this is going to be a fun season series next year.
1:54 - Wheeler has never been coined a tough guy, perhaps because he does things like slash Darroll Powe
across the shins while Powe is laying on the ice. This all comes after a gorgeous deflection by Brodziak that forces Pavelec into another huge save.
0:00 - I will now go pass out in the corner of the press box, hoping to regain enough mental strength to handle the upcoming third period.Period 3
19:30 - Backstrom is standing on his ear tonight. Little gets a loose puck and goes right to the front of the net. He tries to go upstairs from about five feet away but the Wild keeper flashes the glove for his umpteenth amazing save.
17:21 - The Jets pull a fast one on the refs here. Former UMD Bulldog Tim Stapleton tries to get to the bench on a Winnipeg icing so Little can come on for the faceoff. The ref sees it and tells Little to get back to the bench. He does not and goes to the faceoff circle. The ref continues to yell at Little to go back to the bench, which he does, but it's Wheeler that comes back on the ice and not Stapleton. Ooohhh refs. They're dumb.
14:27 - The goaltending duel continues. Bouchard continues to be stymied by Pavelec, this time after stealing a loose puck in the slot. He fires a high wrister but Pavelec makes a sparkling glove save.
12:36 - Just making saves is boring. Backstrom is now trying to do it with every body part. This time it's his big toe that gets in the way of a one-timer from Stapleton in the left circle.
10:18 - Oduya and Glass collide violently at center ice which allows Heatley to skate in one-on-one. He rips a shot that Pavelec gloves. Oduya looks shaken up on the play.
5:49 - Look out! Nick Schultz takes a monstrous hit from Byfuglien behind the Wild cage. That's a large body to be on the wrong side of a collision with.5:00 - MIN 1 - WPG 2 - Just as a penalty to Stoner is about to expire, the Jets power play connects on a beauty. Wheeler sends a cross-zone pass to Byfuglien who punches one immediately to the side of the net for Little. He stops the pass with his skate and then stuffs one in from the side of the net. The fans are now delirious, and admittedly for good reason. That's a sick passing display.
2:49 - Heatley just unloads with a hit on Oduya. Even the stars are throwing their weight around in this one.
1:17 - Backstrom is now on the bench.
1:06 - Despite the Wild getting a power play out of this, it's the absolute last thing we need to see. Bouchard, who has been brilliant all night, takes a hit from behind by Bogosian. He goes face first into the boards and is crumpled on the ice. Heatley skates over to Bogosian who immediately drops the gloves. Heatley does not, and for good reason. Bogosian is going to get five and a 10 for this. The Wild will now have a 6-on-4 advantage. And if they tie, they'll have a power play for nearly four minutes of overtime.
0:49.5 - Oh my! Pavelec makes his best save of the night, robbing the red hot Brodziak all alone in front.
0:00 - We've got a melee to end this one, and it's only fitting. Despite the loss, this one was one of the best regular season games I can remember watching. Unbeliebable.